Anna warns of another fast; govt hits back

Anna Hazare, who is on a ‘maun vrat’ (vow of silence), on Tuesday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a copy to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, threatening to go on a fast again.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Anna Hazare, who is on a ‘maun vrat’ (vow of silence), on Tuesday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a copy to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, threatening to go on a fast again.

In the letter, Anna made it clear that he will again go on a fast if the Lokpal Bill is not passed in the Winter Session of Parliament itself. He sent a copy of the letter to Law Minister Salman Khurshid as well. However, Khurshid was prompt in denying that he had received the letter, and discounted any reason for such threats.

“Anna’s letter has not been received by me. The PM will reply to it. I can’t understand why Anna is so restless,” he told reporters.

He further said the government was committed to a strong ombudsman.

"I will begin my hunger strike agitation on the last day of the (Winter) Session if the Jan Lokpal Bill is not passed in the House," Hazare said in the letter.

His close aide Datta Awari told over phone from Ralegan Siddhi that in the letter, Hazare has reminded the Prime Minister that he had called off his indefinite hunger strike, which he began on August 16 at Ramlila Maidan, following a written assurance from him, which was conveyed to him by Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

"If an effective Jan Lokpal Bill is in place, it would help the country get rid of corruption and also help utilise more funds towards development work," Hazare said in the letter.

The 74-year-old activist, who is observing vow of silence at his native village since October 16, had on Monday indicated that he might discontinue the `maun vrat` over the next couple of days as he wants to hold "open discussions" with his supporters.

Core Team Anna member Kiran Bedi also echoed Anna’s concerns and said that they wanted the PM or the Congress president to assure them of passing the Lokpal Bill in the Winter Session itself.

“We have been disappointed by the hollow assurances of many people and thus want either the PM or the president of Congress, the party with the majority, to give us an assurance or else we will go back to fasting again as we have no other option,” Bedi told Zee News.

Hazare said he will start his movement for a strong Lokpal and again go on fast on December 21, the last day of the Winter Session, if the Bill is not passed by then.

On Tuesday, Team Anna - itself under criticism over collection and handling of funds - also unveiled details of donations received and expenses incurred during its agitations for a strong Lokpal Bill.

The team said it would return Rs 42.55 lakh of Rs 2.94 crore it received in donations due to lack of clarity about the donors, but Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh took a dig at the offer, saying: "Only the super heroes can collect from unknown and return them."

The reference was obliquely to Kiran Bedi, a Team Anna member and former police officer who received Police Gallantry Award, who was alleged to have collected business class air fares from sponsors while actually buying low-cost tickets and offered to return the excess money.

Hazare, who wrote the letter to PM on Monday but released on Tuesday, warned the government that he would tour the five states scheduled to go to the polls early next year and campaign for "clean candidates" without naming any party.

Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur are due in the first half of 2012.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni meanwhile said: "I do not see any reason for bringing pressure on the government as the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, the leader of the Lok Sabha, Congress leaders and the Prime Minister himself have repeatedly emphasised that a strong, effective and powerful instrument like the Lokpal will be put in place."

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